By Megan Lehman
“Women supporting women.” It’s a common phrase we here in today’s world. And with the increased numbers of women running for office and women getting politically engaged, it looks like the comradery between women is rising as well. But is this always, or truly, the case?
Recently I competed in Washington, DC, at the Young Women to Watch Awards with Running Start, speaking with other extremely talented women at the National Women in the Arts Museum. Running Start is a nonpartisan organization that trains women to run for office.
To get to the Young Women to Watch awards, I ran a fundraising campaign via Facebook which started with me contacting every woman in the Iowa House and Senate. I wrote up an email, explaining who I am, why I was fundraising, why it is important to support nonpartisan organizations, and then redirected them to my fundraiser. I never listed my political affiliation. And I only received one letter back, from a Democrat, a 23-year veteran of the Iowa House. The note, which I have quoted below, surprised me.
Thank you for contacting me and explaining the purpose behind Running Start.
After this last election I am no longer supporting organizations that are non-partisan. We have been burned so badly by the Republican Party and specifically Republican Women who are anti-choice, anti-public education, anti-minimum wage increases, anti-pay equity for women, anti-early childhood education, anti-science and the list goes on. I can give you specifics if you would like to know about what has occurred here in Iowa and what I have faced in the Iowa House. It was republican women who fought us on gender balance on boards and commissions and pay equity for women.
As a Republican woman, I was both offended and saddened by her response. I took a few minutes to gage my response. And this is what I said:
As a Republican woman, I’m sorry to hear that you have experienced negativity from the Republican party. I also hope to make it clear that simply being a Republican woman does not mean I support or fight against the many issues you listed here.
I’m also a firm believer that one of our biggest problems with government, both state wide and federally, is the alienation or villain-ization of the other side of the aisle. I do not know how to create an environment of compromise and unity without bi-partisanship. I respect your choice, thank you for your response.
I truly do not. I do not know how to move forward with a government that refuses to work together, let alone support the ambitions of others wanting to serve and make a difference. I have purposely left the name of the female representative out of this article because I do not want to give this unacceptable behavior a face, a name, or a home.
And that is because there are people like this in every state, in all levels of government. Without people like you and me holding them accountable, we are only going to remain exactly where we are today; a mess of divisiveness and frustration.
This representative did email me back again, though her response this time took closer to two weeks and provided a long list as to the many ways she has tried to work with republicans in the past and closed by stating, “If you want to change the system both parties need to be respectful of each other and their opinions and seek to find the compromise.”
I do want the system to change. That is exactly why I support nonpartisan organizations, like Running Start, who train women of different political mindsets and backgrounds together. Doing this only encourages our future political leaders to work together, seek compromise, and push boundaries farther than they’ve been before. I’m ready to be a part of this change. I challenge you, and all our current elected officials, to be ready as well.